Owing to the real-life business and design challenges, the yearly engineering PneuDrive Competition, hosted by German manufacturer SEW-Eurodrive and pneumatic and automation parts manu-facturer Pneumax, offers an opportunity for personal learning experiences that develop important characteristics in young professionals who are entering the job market.
“This initiative offers the important link between the academic study of engineering and the need to develop practical engineering competences that businesses need,” says PneuDrive learning programme manager Andrew Rose.
The yearly competition, which is a strategic platform for South African engineering education, aims to further attract and encourage current and future engineering students.
Rose explains that the competition enables students to achieve an accelerated growth path attuned to the realities and operational demands of the engineering industry.
The competition, which is in its sixth year, combines an experience that brings the study of engineering theory, the latest techno- logy in drive engineering and pneumatics and the need to solve existing business problems together.
The winners of this year’s PneuDrive Competition were announced this month, but had not yet been released at the time of going to press.
This year’s theme–greener mining–pro- vided a platform where student engineers could engage with industry experts, who helped them explore, and design, the practicalities of solving problems in the mining industry.
Rose says that mechanical, electronic and mechatronic engineering students were invited to design applications for managing mining waste and disposing of it in a manner that is financially viable, challenging the students beyond their typical academic and engineering design boundaries.
He explains that entries for this year’s competition ranged from ideas to improve water-recycling processes on gold mine tailings dams to dust-emission filtration systems, highlighting that an application to turn waste granite blocks into usable cobblestones also attracted attention.
Rose adds that a team from Tshwane University of Technology proposed a unique concept of using sound waves, extraction fans and wireless systems to address the problem of removing dust in a mining environment.
Further, an entry from North-West University entailed a design idea that could enhance the ability of a mining operation to meet legislative requirements regarding the quality of wastewater, he says, adding that the design is a combination of vortex separation, biofiltration and mechanical filtration.
Meanwhile, a team from the University of the Witwatersrand designed a system comprising a network of solar stills that could capture the evaporating water from tailings dams. The idea, Rose says, is to feed the water back to mining operations for reuse and, thereby, reduce the dependence on fresh- water supplies.
South Africa needs to produce ten times as many engineers as it currently does, as the country produces about 3 000 engineers a year through tertiary education, but requires about 30 000 engineers a year to keep developing, says Consulting Engineers South Africa (Cesa) president Naren Bhojaram.
According to the National Development Plan, “South Africa’s success hinges on its ability to strengthen its engineering qualifications to provide the skills to implement the plan.”
Rose concludes that the 2014 competition will be more accessible so that its benefits can be experienced by as many engineering students in South Africa as possible.